County is poised to make St. Mary's Cemetery open space Efforts of Turf Valley Overlook residents have paid off WEST COUNTY -- Clarksville * Highland * Glenelg * Lisbon

November 30, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

When a handful of Turf Valley Overlook residents demande that the county take possession of St. Mary's Cemetery and make it part of the community's open space, people scoffed.

Not just skeptics. Residents were demanding the impossible -- something the county said it would never do.

Now, however, the county is about to do what residents asked. Two resolutions authorizing the county to take control of the 3.2-acre property and designate it as open space were filed with the County Council last week.

"This could be our Christmas present," said Sandra Pezzoli, a resident who spearheaded the drive to preserve the cemetery.

The council will consider the resolutions in December. It is expected to approve them Jan. 4.

The resolutions call for the county to take possession of St. Mary's Cemetery by means of a three-way land swap between the county, property owner H. Allen Becker and developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr.

The first part of the deal calls for Mr. Becker to cede his property to the county in exchange for a half-acre lot that was part of the designated open space in Turf Valley Overlook.

The second part of the deal calls for Mr. Becker to cede the open space parcel to Mr. Reuwer in exchange for a lot in Martin Meadows and a lot in Turf Valley Overlook.

Mr. Reuwer, the developer of both Martin Meadows and Turf Valley Overlook, would use the acreage ceded to him by Mr. Becker to help fulfil his open space requirement in Martin Meadows.

The three-way exchange is dependent on a group of residents called the Friends of St. Mary's Cemetery and Preservation Society. They must provide perpetual care of the cemetery in accordance with an agreement signed by Mr. Becker and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baltimore.

Ms. Pezzoli, a member of the society board of directors, said she expects that agreement to be ratified when the society meets in two weeks.

She said the archdiocese has agreed to contribute $10,000 to the society to help maintain the cemetery. The Baltimore archdiocese sold the cemetery property to Mr. Reuwer for $10,000 in 1987, and he subsequently sold it to Mr. Becker.

The group plans to use interest on the gift from the archdiocese to pay expenses -- the first of which is liability insurance -- Ms. Pezzoli said. In addition, the society will ask residents for contributions to pay legal fees and other expenses, Ms. Pezzoli said.

Despite what she called superb help and cooperation from Public Works Director James M. Irvin and Parks and Recreation Director Jeffrey A. Bourne, getting to this point has been an ordeal, Ms. Pezzoli said.

"There has been so much minutiae, so much detail and people changing their minds as to what they were willing to do," she said.

Final agreement will end a more than year-long dispute between residents, Mr. Becker and the county. The dispute became especially intense in late June when Mr. Becker began clearing a portion of the heavily wooded site to build two houses.

Although residents claimed all three acres constituted a cemetery, the county and Mr. Becker contended grave sites were located only in opposite ends of what once was a segregated cemetery.

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